Anarchy diary sparks strike call

20th July 2007 at 01:00
Teachers back colleagues suspended for exposing pupils' aggressive and lewd behaviour over 18 months

Teachers were due to strike yesterday after their union rep was suspended during an inquiry into the publication of a diary exposing pupils' bad behaviour.

The strike, at South Chadderton school in Oldham, comes in the same week that The TES was sent the diary cataloguing the behaviour endured by a teacher at an unnamed school in the town.

The National Union of Teachers would not confirm the allegations against its representative for legal reasons, nor say whether he wrote the diary. However, it is understood the diary's publication is connected to his suspension. The 27 members were also striking over a dispute on management pay changes.

An anonymous teacher put together the extensive report over 18 months, using transcriptions from the slips used for his school's official reporting system.

The diary reveals that pupils threatened to burn down his house, bring an airgun into class and called him a "faggot", "a fucking knobhead" and "a mong".

The experienced teacher was frequently threatened with physical assault, was jumped on in the corridor and punched. One attack was so serious police were called in.

The diary told of boys' offensive sexual behaviour toward girls, of others attempting to push pupils down stairs. Pupils pretended to masturbate and feigned sniffing glue and smoking dope in lessons.

Pupils also bunked off, encouraged each other to hit the teacher and a group of Year 11 girls fought in the middle of lessons. The classroom store cupboard was broken into.

On a school trip, one pupil attempted to vandalise the 16th-century plaster ceiling at a National Trust property. Near the end of the diary, the teacher had to rush to the aid of another who had been doused with urine during a lesson. The NUT said it decided to publicise the diary, compiled about 18 months ago, after Oldham Council education officers failed to respond to copies they were sent earlier this year.

The union said the diary was written to demonstrate the issue of poor behaviour experienced by teachers everywhere. And it has condemned the council's attempts to track down the author with a view to starting disciplinary action.

Tony Harrison, joint branch secretary of Oldham NUT, said: "The contents of the diary should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat. Evidence shows that the diary does not dramatise the truth about behaviour in our schools.

"Another member rang me to say that the contents of the diary are a picnic in comparison to the experiences in her school.

"We need to recognise what is happening in our schools and listen to teachers when they speak about the problem.

"Oldham local authority has now agreed to meet the teacher unions to discuss their views on pupil behaviour. This initiative would not have happened without the publication of the diary."

The anonymous teacher, known as Teacher B, told the local newspaper in Oldham that the poor behaviour he experienced was far from exceptional. He said: "It was my way of trying to quantify what was actually happening. All that is exceptional is that a teacher has invested hundreds of hours summarising more than 400 incidents." Ruth Baldwin, director of children, young people and families at Oldham Council, said she was confident in Ofsted's view that schools in the town were "orderly places".

She added: "Of course we are extremely concerned by the claims raised in the diary and this has been the subject of an ongoing investigation since the diary came to our attention."

She refused to comment directly on the teacher's suspension to protect the privacy of those involved.

The publication of the diary follows the suspension from teaching for a year of supply teacher Angela Mason, who secretly filmed her pupils for a TV programme.

Television producer Mrs Mason returned to the classroom to expose bad behaviour.

But England's General Teaching Council said she had breached her colleagues' trust.

The TES received a number of letters in support of Mrs Mason, one of which denounced the GTC's use of the footage to criticise her classroom management.

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